Last Saturday, 20th Nov 2010, we attended the first DesignJam event in London. Design Jams are one or two day events that bring participants from a range of disciplines to solve a design or UX (user experience) problem.
DesignJam London #1 was a one day event. Fifty participants were split up into teams of five to solve the task. This same task was given to every group and was to be completed within 8 hours. See the day schedule.
The task: “What is the ideal interface to track & trace relevant online content, visited across multiple devices and locations? Lets explore how users can quickly and effectively access web content, that they have seen via multiple devices and locations…” (See full task details)
Our group: http://www.designjams.org/wiki/OPTIMATES
Our views on DesignJam London 1:
We attended this event because we wanted to know more about UX techniques. James wanted to understand the steps from ideation to wireframes that UX professionals would work through. Mariana was interested in working collaboratively with other designers and learn from UX professionals.
An insight to some of the things we learnt:
- Using Personas: Most groups were using user stories or personas. This technique isn’t something new to us but it did remind us of how powerful this technique can be, at giving direction to the early phases of a project. Having said that, you shouldn’t solely rely on user personas, because they are fictional caricature of your users. One of the questions raised there was when should we use personas.
- Research via Social Media: One of the groups used twitter to gather users input before they had even started brainstorming and researching, giving them direction and effectively increasing the amount of people collaborating.
- Mental Note Cards: Another team used Stephen Anderson’s Mental notes cards, which aid the brainstorming process. The cards remind you of psychological pitfalls that can influence the direction of a project. This is something we would like to have known more about.
- Time Management: After the first team brainstorming and research presentations, we felt our team took too long brainstorming. To avoid this, we should have created a schedule, setting times and SMART goals.
- Explaining ideas effectively: Our team had some great creative ideas. Although we thought we had the same picture in our heads, when it came to producing individual wireframes we could see how different our understandings were.
- Knowledge of functionality helps: Knowing how to build certain functionalities can help when we are discussing ideas because we can have a better view on what is possible. Plus, while designing wireframes we can add more explanatory details of how things will function. Both of this points allow you to produce better user experience and usability. This leads us to think that developers and designers should collaboratively work together on usability and user experience processes.
What we thought Design Jam could have done better…
- Making the Teams: The way professionals were grouped could have been better. In our group, for example, we didn’t have any UX experts, which would have helped. Maybe suggesting groups before the event would have been better.
- Mentors: The mentors chatting to the teams as the event went on was a good idea, however, our time with them was limited. We would have liked to have spent more time and learnt more from them. Maybe a 30min talk in the middle of the day about specific techniques that UX professionals use on a daily basis.
Let’s do a DesignJam Oxford and/or Bristol (UK)!
That Saturday was certainly inspiring. Even for us who had to wake up before 6am on a Saturday and arrive home at 3am, we would definitely do it again, and we will. We are trying to bring it to Oxford and/or Bristol in the next year. So, if you have interest in taking part or helping organising it in those areas please get in touch (twitter @desdevusability, message or email) and we’ll let you know when this event will happen.
By James and Mariana